back to article Almost everyone read the Verizon v FCC net neutrality verdict WRONG

Doomsday arrived this week – or is about to. That's if you've been reading the tech blogosphere. "We are the Folk Song Army. Everyone of us cares. We all hate poverty, war, and injustice, Unlike the rest of you squares." - Tom Lehrer A US appeals court ruled on Tuesday that America's communications watchdog the FCC didn't …

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  1. Efros

    No choice

    For a fair amount of America there is no choice in the ISP that you use. You can have multiple dial ups (they still exist here), maybe a crappy DSL connection, or a cable connection. Outside of major population centers in the US it is the norm to be subject to a monopoly or, at best, a duopoly as far as broadband is concerned, while that is the case the providers can pretty much charge and do what they want. Same market forces apply to mobile phones here, the consumer get's screwed.

    1. TelecomGrunt

      Re: No choice

      Well stated and I want to reinforce this point. In my area there is no chance of competition due to franchise agreements between the providers and the city or county. And even in areas where that is not the case, the subscriber base is too small to make it viable for more than one player to enter the market. In areas where there more than one choice, it is between a cable TV provider (e.g. Cox Communications) and a telephone company (e.g. AT&T). Both of course offer their own video services, so they both have a vested interest in making the use of Netflix et al either frustrating or prohibitively expensive.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No choice

      And even in metro areas where you have several providers, you may still not have a choice. For a long time TWC had exclusive contracts in MDUs (multiple-dwelling units, or large apartment buildings). Several years ago NYC changed the laws to give access to other providers. But in many cases, the condo/co-op board members refused to allow access to the other provider. We managed to get our board of directors to agree last summer after much bickering and replacing board members... but there are plenty of other boards that simply refuse.

    3. JeffyPoooh
      Pint

      Number of "broadband" ISP options available in my neighbourhood

      One.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Number of "broadband" ISP options available in my neighbourhood

        Thank the FCC for that one. They destroyed local competition.

        All that energy expended over 10 years fighting for something that doesn't exist could have been spent campaigning for local loop competition, and making the giant telcos contribute to a healthy public backbone, and open and transparent public peering. What a waste of time.

  2. Circadian

    Nice straw man

    "...what lingers is the image of the American consumer who doesn't even realize his or her Netflix stream has been blocked, and simply (presumably) stares at the screen".

    The way it would really be done would just be via degradation. Dropped packets, occasional freezes, stuttering. Stuff that would be hard to track down and prove responsibility for. I'm reasonable technical, but I certainly don't have the networking knowledge or tools to be able to track and prove that type of degradation. So instead of a completely failed service, there would be a perception that (say) Netflx doesn't give as good a service as (ISP company X)'s own competing service. Or at least wouldn't unless Netflix ponies up some readies ("nice streaming service you have there. Would be a pity if some packets got... dropped").

    However, in spite of that, I enjoyed the article. Nice to make it clear that the judges were basing their decision on how the law was framed (such that the FCC were overreaching their remit) and that it is the responsibility of the law-makers to resolve this if they wish FCC or some agency to have those powers.

    1. alaska93

      Re: Nice straw man

      I would add that what consumers don't have a way of knowing is who is at fault for the failure of a remote service. If Netflix appears down, but other Internet sites work the presumption may be that Netflix is where the problem lies. Intentional blocking by traffic carriers is difficult to diagnose. I also agree that consumers have limited options to vote with their wallets.

      1. Dave Bell

        Re: Nice straw man

        Even with the numerous competing broadband services in the UK, with highly regulated provision of the actual physical connection, it's damnably hard who is to blame for problems. My physical connection is fast enough for streaming video, but about a quarter of the salesman's headline figure. And the service delivered at "peak times" is less than a quarter of the physical connection speed.

        The streaming video seems to have erupted onto the UK market in the last year. And the ISPs haven't kept pace. Worse, they don't seem willing to admit to a problem, or say anything about improvements. Try asking about IPv6. "We have no plans." They should at least be buying compatible hardware.

        I'm a geek. I know about this stuff. I've been in business. I know something about contracts. I can't get a straight answer about what they can deliver, or how they will handle a possible upgrade to the superfast fibre-boosted broadband. I even have info on a contract signed to upgrade local broadband, under the subsidy scheme for rural broadband, which BT Openreach apparently don't know anything about.

        Net neutrality? I'll settle for a bit of honesty.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Nice straw man

        The monopoly cable internet provider here in the Frozen North was charging customers who used other suppliers VOIP services a $10/month "quality of service" fee - to ensure the VOIP packets got through.

        Nice little data packet you got here squire - be a shame if anything happened to it !

    2. NullReference Exception

      Re: Nice straw man

      Your comment hints at a bigger problem: there are many things that could cause Netflix service to be "degraded" on Company X's network besides intentional interference on X's part. If the links between Netflix's datacenters and X's network are all at capacity, then X's customers will have problems accessing Netflix. Who is at fault here? More to the point, the only way to fix this is to install a bigger connection between X's network and Netflix (or install some Netflix caching servers directly on X's network) - and neither Netflix nor X are really going to want to pay for this. Furthermore, since the servers supporting X's VOD service are already on X's network, they won't be affected by this congestion and the quality of service will be better. Note that there is no "intentional" degradation of service involved here!

      The bottom line is that network neutrality laws and regulations are going to prove very troublesome to enforce, because "degradation" can be percieved in many ways. In the good old days when most sites were producers as well as consumers of data and traffic between networks was more or less symmetric, congestion was everybody's problem and fixing it benefitted all involved. But now that the Internet has evolved into a distribution system for YouTube and Netflix, things are a lot less symmetric and congestion therefore becomes a very thorny issue.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Pint

      Re: Nice straw man

      I'm an American, and I've been trying to read this entire article. But the screen went blank as I was reading it.

      Since then, I've just sat here in a trance, staring at the blank screen. For hours.

      Hoping someone will please bring me some beer.

      Can't move to get my own beer. The blank screen is trying to tell me something... something very important I think...

      The blankness of the screen is so lovely and fascinating - like Sartre's nothingness of the human soul - like the infinite depths of space. Beer... Need beer...

    4. Fatman

      Re: Nice straw man

      So instead of a completely failed service, there would be a perception that (say) Netflx doesn't give as good a service as (ISP company X)'s own competing service.

      All an ISP would have to do is check the source IP of a packet, and throttle packets (impose QoS 'restrictions) coming from competing services; and I am fairly sure it is done already.

    5. User McUser

      Re: Nice straw man

      The way it would really be done would just be via degradation.

      I suspect my ISP has been degrading my Netflix streams. Just now I watched "Example Short 23.976" which is some sort of diagnostic video that displays the current bitrate of the video stream and the resolution.

      When I watch it using just my normal ISP, I get 235kbps 320x240. When I connect to the VPN at the office, I get 3000kbps, 1280x720. Now there could be a perfectly reasonable explanation for this, but it seems awful suspicious to me.

    6. Kanhef

      Re: Nice straw man

      Degradation doesn't even have to be that obvious. If an ISP delayed every packet to or from Netflix by 1 ms, no one would be able to tell the difference. Add another millisecond of delay every week, and see how it takes for anyone to notice. Netflix videos would still work without any obvious glitches, but they'd be a bit slower and take longer to buffer than the ISP's service. If only streaming data is throttled, and not ICMP traffic (such as pings and traceroutes), it would be almost impossible to prove that anything unusual is happening.

  3. Frank Zuiderduin

    Tl;dr

    Not relevant to anyone outsite the country of companies that can never be trusted again anyway.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Tl;dr

      FWIW 48% of Register readers were in the US (according to our latest readership audit, in November 2013).

      C.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tl;dr

        That's because traditional media outlets (Fox, NBC, CBS I am looking at you) tend to limit a thinking American's choices for news reporting and decent debate.

        Thankfully, this is beginning to change, however slowly.

        Vive la neutralité !

      2. Brenda McViking
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Tl;dr

        Nah - it's obviously just GCHQ redirecting all British traffic through NSA servers making it look like we're all American so that they can spy on us.

        I mean - we're looking up things about computers and security on the internet - we MUST be a threat.

  4. John Tserkezis

    Stop humouring us, Net Neutrality doesn't exist, and probably never will again.

    I though it was quite humerous you state how bad things would get if you no longer had access to Netflix, and the distinct lack of options if it does go down. Ha, I say, Ha. It's already here. Everyone outside the US is being discriminated against. Proxy servers aside - they don't count because they violate at least a number of licence agreements.

    This was the very thing that net neutrality was supposed to protect against - yet it lives on. That doesn't count you say because it's a licence issue, not a 'net issue? Ask me how much I care.

    Net Neutrality my arse. It doesn't exist, it may have once upon a time, but certainly not now, and probably never will again. Ever heard of China? That case doesn't count because that's a country issue that's covered by local laws and restrictions? My arse again. Why I can't purchase and download an electronic copy of an AudioBook, but be able to purchase the CDs at higher quality no questions asked? Why one vendor is quite happy to sell me stock from the US, but another won't sell me the exact same thing from the same source because "shipping to your country is not available"? And the ultimate in stupid - why I can't buy a book/CD/DVD/Blueray locally because it's against the law, but I can easily purchase it from overseas LEGALLY?

    The Net brings everyone together, and yet everyone is still held at a distance due to other reasons. What's the point of arguing over Net Neutrality if we're held back anyway? Especially if we're held back because of the net (see the audiobook example above).

    No, I'm not bitter about it. The bastards.

    1. bep

      Re: Stop humouring us, Net Neutrality doesn't exist, and probably never will again.

      I think the net neutrality rules apply within the USA. The rest of the world can, and is, making its own arrangements.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stop humouring us, Net Neutrality doesn't exist, and probably never will again.

      John Tserkezis, nice post, but what has not being able to buy an audi book from a supplier that doesn't want to sell it to you have to do with net neutrality?

  5. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Holmes

    Careful with axe of myths, Eugene!

    In 1934 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was created to regulate the airwaves and communications over wires – meaning it had to scrutinize the gigantic Bell telephone monopoly. Most telephone companies around the world at that time were state-owned monopolies, but Bell was a private giant, offering Americans the worst of all worlds: touchy-feely USSR-style customer service, and Robber Baron-era monopoly profits.

    Not so fast with the presentation of Stuff that My Friendly Bureaucrat told me! Correct history is important for correct analysis. Think AT&T was unbridled capitalism and the FCC was created to fix that? Not so.

    First, the FCC was the follower of the Federal Radio Commission, whose business was to regulate spectrum since the 20's, so creation of the FCC was not an idea that came out of nothingness.

    Then, 1934 was the time of Mussolini-inspired state interventions all over the US. It was also the time of the neverending Great Depression. As today, these two things are very strongly linked, but that's for another time.

    Big Phone was not to be shackled and controlled by the FCC. Big Phone had very good relations to Washington, D.C. Indeed, a bit early, Bell Illinois angled for a little bailout. As Murray Rothbard writes in "The Great Depression: The Hoover New Deal of 1932":

    "If Hoover eagerly embraced the statism of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, he gave ground but grudgingly on one issue where he had championed the voluntary approach: direct relief. Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York led the way for state relief programs in the winter of 1931-1932, and he induced New York to establish the first state relief authority: the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration, equipped with $25 million. Other states followed this lead, and Senators Costigan and LaFollette introduced a bill for a $500 million federal relief program. The bill was defeated, but, with depression deepening and a Presidential election approaching, the administration all but surrendered, passing the Emergency Relief and Construction Act of July, 1932 - the nation's first Federal relief legislation. Particularly influential in inducing Hoover's surrender was a plea for federal relief, at the beginning of June, by leading industrialists of Chicago. Having been refused further relief funds by the Illinois legislature, these Chicagoans turned to the federal government. They included the chief executives of Armour, Wilson, Cudahy, International Harvester, Santa Fe Railroad, Marshall Field, Colgate-Palmolive-Peet, Inland Steel, Bendix, U.S. Gypsum, A.B. Dick, Illinois Bell Telephone, and the First National Bank."

    But let's get to the meat of the matter: Regulation. Is it meant to improve the consumers' lot and foster competition? Nope! It is meant to cement existing structures:

    In Unnatural Monopoly: Critical Moments in the Development of the Bell System Monopoly by Adam D. Thierer [Cato Journal, Vol. 14, No. 2, 1994 - yes I know ... KOCH BROTHERS!!], we read:

    On regulation before the FCC:

    Second, the initiation of extensive federal rate regulation is important because it propelled state regulatory commissions to follow suit by greatly extending the scope of their authority. By 1922, 40 of 48 states were regulating telephone rates (Noll 1991: 180), The public utility commissions at the state level immediately began to mimic federal policies established during World War I. Businesses and urban subscribers were charged more than rural customers to help extend service to distant locations. Likewise, long distance rates were averaged to ensure a company could not charge more for toll calls of the same distance. Robert Garnet (1985: 152) describes this state-based rate regulation: “Statewide rate averaging would eventually become a distinguishing feature of Bell System subscriber charges and would be embraced by regulators as a strategy for promoting the extension of telephone service to areas of marginal earnings potential.” And that is exactly what happened. By 1925 not only had virtually every state established strict rate regulation guidelines, but local telephone competition was either discouraged or explicitly prohibited within many of those jurisdictions. Third, by averaging rates geographically to artificially suppress rural rates, policymakers and regulators created a serious disincentive to local telephone competition. Few firms, after all, will seek to enter a market and offer service if they realize it is difficult, if not impossible, to undercut the subsidized service of the incumbent carrier.

    Hence, universal service, the final element of AT&T’s strategy to eliminate competition, was in place thanks to the explicit actions of both federal and state legislators and regulators. Once AT&T’s motto was adopted as the nation’s de facto regulatory policy, no other firm was in a position to adequately extend service in accordance with the

    new federal and state mandated social policy. The Bell monopoly was here to stay.

    The FCC and Telephone Entitlement:

    A few years later, this new unwritten law of the land was codified as the raison d’être of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with the passage of the Communications Act of 1934. The commission was created, “for the purpose of regulating interstate and foreign commerce in communication by wire and radio so as to make available, so far as possible, to all the people of the United States a rapid, efficient, Nation-wide, and world-wide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges.”

    In effect, every American was henceforth found to be entitled to the right to telephone service, specifically cheap telephone service. To carryout this difficult policy objective, the FCC was given sweeping powers. Beside its powers to regulate rates to ensure they were “just and reasonable,” the FCC was also given the power to restrict entry into the marketplace. Potential competitors were, and still are required to obtain from the FCC a “certificate of public convenience and necessity.” The intent of the licensing process was again to prevent “wasteful duplication” and “unneeded competition.” In reality, it served as a front to guard the interests of the regulated monopoly and the FCC’s social agenda. The overall hostility to competition by the FCC and the drafters of the legislation that gave birth to it is best illustrated by a 1988 Department of Commerce report on the development of the telecommunications industry. The report notes, “The chief focus of the Communications Act of 1934 was on the regulation of telecommunications, not necessarily its maximum development and promotion. [T]he drafters of the legislation saw the talents and resources of the industry presenting more of a challenge to the public interest than an opportunity for national progress” (164). Over time the FCC would come to see the Bell System simply as the implementor of its agenda. Consequently, it would continue to use its power in favor of AT&T when potential competitors threatened the firm’s hegemony. Their bureaucratic mismanagement of the radio spectrum (which was nationalized under the Radio Act of 1927) meant the most capable competitor of the era would never be given a chance to compete. Despite the fact that wireless technologies would be greatly developed in the near future, the possibility of serious wireless competition rising up to meet the Bell challenge in the first half of this century became less likely once government forces, instead of market forces, controlled how the spectrum was allocated. Just as the wireline technologies where subject to blatant political manipulation, the wireless spectrum became the tool of regulatory and special interests; competition was again dealt a severe blow.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Careful with axe of myths, Eugene!

      That's nice, but I don't believe our summary is inaccurate.

      C.

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Careful with axe of myths, Eugene!

      @DestroyAllMonsters

      What an excellent post.

      Two points: The religious zeal for Public Choice Theory amongst some libertarians may be misplaced - they may have cause and effect backwards. Bureaucrats don't always create opportunity for more work for bureaucrats, but they sure know a gravy train when they see one. And they get so cosy with the people they're supposed to regulate (regulatory capture), it's like the gag about dogs resembling their owners. Or owners resembling their dogs.

      Secondly, the FCC has for most of its distinguished lifetime dealt with two pressing issues: Bell Telephones and rude things - like swearing, and nipples. Today, nobody really uses landline telephones any more. And so, assuming Janet Jackson doesn't have any more wardrobe malfunctions, that's the FCC other great duty gone.

      Is it safe to say this agency is now obsolete? And if that's the case, shouldn't Americans let it go - and (assuming they're serious about having competitive markets for internet-y things), think about how to make other agencies more effective?

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Careful with axe of myths, Eugene!

        Today, nobody really uses landline telephones any more

        Typical middle-class urban provincialism.

        According to the most recent figures I could find, mobile-only households still haven't even reached 50% in the US.

        It's true that wired ("landline") telephone use is dropping, in some areas very rapidly; and in at least some states it's dropping faster among the poor than among the rich. But for many rural and poor US residents, a mobile phone is simply not an option at this point. It's an absurd and insulting exaggeration to claim that "nobody" uses them.

        I'll also note that my wife and I are wealthy urban residents, with mobile and VoIP telephony at our disposal, but during the last sustained power outage in our area, our wired phone was the only working telephone in the neighborhood after the first 24 hours or so. When the batteries died at the cell towers, those mobile phones became useless toys. And I wouldn't have been able to find dry ice for the freezer without that landline.

    3. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Careful with axe of myths, Eugene!

      "Then, 1934 was the time of Mussolini-inspired state interventions all over the US. It was also the time of the neverending Great Depression. As today, these two things are very strongly linked, "

      Of course they are! Depressions require state intervention - what's your point? Ah, look: a link to a Cato Institute publication ... you are one of those that subscribes to the "only a free market works" philosophy.* I have never in six years of following Cato Institute publications seen a single thing that makes me think that the contributors are not the most dangerous people on Earth.

      *OK - I'm just funnin' ya, DAM: your position is clear and consistent throughout your posting history.

  6. Stuart Moore

    Lack of competition

    Good article. But isn't the point that in the usa there is so little competition that you might only have 2 options for internet access at your house - if they both decide to block netflix, there's little you can do other than hope a 3rd company might spot the gap in the market, invest loads in kit, and then as soon as it deployed one of the others turns netflix back on again long enough to kill it.

    We are lucky here in the UK that, if you can get broadband at all, you are likely to have several options. So you can choose for dirt cheap/parental controls/lack of parental controls/refusing to give subscriber details to copyright trolls without a court order...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lack of competition

      > But isn't the point that in the usa there is so little competition that you might only have 2 options for internet access at your house

      Of course, this is the big lie that competition in the marketplace will cure all ills.

      Cable, which serves so much of Internet in the US and Canada is a natural monopoly.

      There's no getting around that simple reality.

      The *only* way that cable can work for the public good is through regulation. It goes against my natural free market instincts, but there are some things that just don't work in a free market.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "asserts that Americans are too stupid to realize what was happening"

    Life is far too busy to know what's happening outside ones field of expertise .

    We are all stupid. This has similarities to Apple stunting the web browser and web apps on IOS 7.

    Apple's money is in apps, not the web. And A T & T's wll gain new earnings from double selling web access.

    There are no wedding bells there but I can see symmetry. That word being 'Control'.

  8. Jason Bloomberg

    Remarkably?

    Because consumers have inadequate information or market power, bad things will happen to them. And when bad things happen to them, for example if they discover that Netflix has been blocked, they are helpless – and unable to switch. Remarkably, the court supports this point of view.

    It is not that remarkable because it is mostly true. If service is only available from one provider it is pretty much put up and shut up or walk away. Hobson's choice.

    No end of campaigning can force a provider to do what a customer wants when they have no legal powers to force them to change or where momentum for change is too little to have an impact on providers that convinces them it is in their interest to change. Market forces simply don't work where there is no market or choice and only monopoly.

    It is fair enough to say they could have choice but that denies the reality that there is, and may never be, that choice. Even where there is choice there is no guarantee that any provider will actually provide. Change is simply jumping from one frying pan into another with an escape route of jumping into the fire and abandoning all providers.

    There is nothing remarkable in a court recognising that consumers may never have a "win" option only "lose" options. I for one am pleased they recognised this.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Remarkably?

      "No end of campaigning can force a provider to do what a customer wants when they have no legal powers to force them to change or where momentum for change is too little to have an impact on providers that convinces them it is in their interest to change. Market forces simply don't work where there is no market or choice and only monopoly."

      True, but where there are two, consumers can and will switch. See my other post on this.

      1. SuccessCase

        Re: Remarkably?

        @Andrew Orlowski

        I would like to share your confidence consumer choice will resolve such matters. Unfortunately the evidence is to the contrary. While consumer choice is powerful and resolves many matters, it doesn't work too well when the problem at issue is one element or aspect of a service bundle. But one example being international data roaming. A small but highly significant subset of consumers are highly motivated by roaming rates, there is competition in the mobile market throughout Europe. Yet for years international data roaming has remained criminally high and not at all based on cost. Competition has manifestly failed the consumer here. Even if there hasn't been under the table price fixing (and I would not be at all surprised if there had been) there has been tacit, let's not rock the boat, price correlation so even if we aren't quite in cartel territory it's a strong oligopoly effect.

        Part of the difficulty is consumers seek convenience more than price advantage which means they do not organise around points of principle on the pricing of sub-services of larger services. High prices can be charged where many services are bundled. Consequently the competitive model we learned about in A Level economics doesn't work and economies of scale are leveraged to deliver bigger profits to the incumbent big business, not the consumer. So we have Supermarkets charging more for fruit and veg than street markets, and the giant B&Q in New Malden charge more for nails and just about everything else than the tiny but superb Cunningham's local hardware store 5 mins away in Raynes Park (yes, plug, no, I have no relationship to them) where you can still buy nails and screws by the gram and buy just a single gram if you prefer. And when business do really bad things consumers still flock to them. Like Sainsbury's in Chelsea, where years ago they were only allowed to build in the Chelsea Harbour area if they built a supermarket of architectural merit and didn't spoil the feel of the neighbourhood with an excessive outward projection of corporate branding. The architect Richard Rogers won the design competition with an inspired and subtle Egyptian design. But the council's lawyers weren't smart enough with the contract. Sainsbury's opened the store for one weekend with the Richard Rogers exterior design, thus fulfilling their contract obligations, then immediately closed it ripped out the brand recessive exterior and replaced it with their normal bright orange corporate branding. If consumers acted on principle, locals would not have frequented the store. Sainsbury's actions were unconscionable, they were clearly negotiating in bad faith and their actions were akin to a big f**k y** to the local community. But of course, depressingly, that is not the case. The store was popular from the outset.

      2. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Remarkably?

        But with just two, it's pretty easy to assume a duopoly and go into cartel behaviour to squeeze out any upstarts. The rival ISP becomes 'the enemy of my enemy' vs. A firm like Netflix.

      3. Graham Marsden
        Boffin

        @Andrew Orlowski

        "where there are two, consumers can and will switch"

        Riiiiiight.

        That's why everyone is now on the best energy tariff and with the best bank current account and buys petrol from the cheapest garage around and has the most sensible mobile phone tariff and why you never see online businesses saying "here are our new terms and conditions, agree to them or close your account" and people sticking with them because they can't be bothered to switch or don't realise there's a better option or think (often quiet rightly) that the other options are equally as bad...

      4. PassiveSmoking

        Re: Remarkably?

        And if those two both decide to act in the same manner and refuse to provide the service the consumer wants?

        2 choices doesn't qualify as healthy competition.

  9. Dr Trevor Marshall
    Thumb Up

    Most US consumers have only one ISP - there is no choice

    Thanks for this perspective, Andrew. I haven't had time to read the actual ruling, and your summary was very useful. The real problem is that most US consumers only have one broadband provider. This allows a company like Verizon to offer me 15/5 FIOS internet, their lowest speed, for only $74.95 (base) per month. I can get a discount to $49.95 the first year, but then my bill automatically changes to $74.95 plus router, plus taxes and fees. An ADSL feed required me to maintain a dry-line phone number, which was $65 per month with ISP costs on top of that. Some consumers have cable, where it is possible to keep the bill around $50 per month, provided one has some negotiating skills and doesn't mind a low 3/1 data rate.

    Despite paying Verizon the $80 monthly fees, if I try to stream a 1080p YouTube video I find the data rate roughly half that of the 720p version (my router logs connection speed). Is it throttling? Yes, most likely, as no similar effect can be noticed on my cable modem feed from a different ISP. So throttling is a public issue, even now... for me, at least...

    1. Hans 1

      Re: Most US consumers have only one ISP - there is no choice

      $74.95?????

      I pay €30 (in fact 29.99) for internet, telephone, and TV

      Intertubes: 22Mb/s ADSL

      Telephone:free local, mobile, international calls (international ~110 countries), connection cut off after one hour, just redial

      TV: some 100 tv channels included, a lot in HD, more available with additional subscription

      We used to pay much more some years ago, then my provider showed up and killed the high margin business for many. They recently did the same for mobile tel's in this country ... €20 per month unlimited calls (landlines, cell phones + international ~110 countries), unlimited SMS, 1Gb data then slower connection.

      This price does not include a subsidized handset, however.

      Before they showed up, the big three were price-fixing (they were convicted for it multiple times) so this same mobile service cost €50 with limited number of SMS and a subsidized phone - you would pay €200 for the best iPhone 3G, then €50/month for two years, €1400 in total - almost 1.5x the price.

      Now, you would think that mobile consumers would rush to this new provider, however, only about 12% did the switch, the others are happily paying extortionate prices for inferior service.

  10. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    That's why I come here...

    An excellent, detailed analysis putting the court's decision into its historical context

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: That's why I come here...

      Thank you

  11. K
    Big Brother

    Its not that people are stupid

    And I don't think the FCC or Judge is being condescending.

    The fact is, it would be a stupid ISP that simply blocks content and services, the smarter ones would simply drop things like Netflix to the bottom of the QoS priority list, and/or throttle the bandwidth to these services.

    Hence the service would still work, but quality would be absolutely abysmal, yet the same customer can download 5Gb files in minutes - As far as the customer is concerned the connection is working at a reasonable speed, so they will lay the blame with Netflix!

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Its not that people are stupid

      "they will lay the blame with Netflix!"

      Even when 50m Netflix subscribers at [One Evil Telco] are all screaming about it at all once on social media - and 50m subscribers at [Other Evil Telco] who haven't seen their service degraded are not?

      Can't really see that. Unless you think every internet user never reads the news, or uses social media.

      Of course, if [One Evil Telco] and [Other Evil Telco] collude to degrade equally, then Netflix complains and you have an FTC / DoJ lawsuit.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Its not that people are stupid

        > Can't really see that. Unless you think every internet user never reads the news, or uses social media.

        > Of course, if [One Evil Telco] and [Other Evil Telco] collude to degrade equally, then Netflix complains and you > have an FTC / DoJ lawsuit.

        The poster's point is that the degradation can (and often is) very subtle.

        Many people in the metropolis in the US get pretty crap Internet service anyway. Their expectations are not high to start off with.

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Its not that people are stupid

      "Hence the service would still work, but quality would be absolutely abysmal, yet the same customer can download 5Gb files in minutes - As far as the customer is concerned the connection is working at a reasonable speed, so they will lay the blame with Netflix!"

      Corrcctly assigning blame is always the challenge, and subject of frequent peering battles. A lot of current degradation is due to capacity issues at the interconnects with ISPs, and the net neutrality argument is often about who should pay for them. If degradation is due to Netflix (or any OTT provider) maxing out their interconnect, who should pay for the upgrades, and how should those upgrades be priced?

  12. TheOtherHobbes

    >Any argument that relies on the idea of trance-like stupidity has to be rejected, though, as an insult to our intelligence.

    Well, quite.

    Can't even be bothered to post a detailed take-down of this, it's so wrong in so many ways.

    Except to say that clearly key infrastructure 'competition' is working so well in the UK, and has been so good at keeping prices down for consumers and increasing choice, and totally not at creating colluding oligopolies or sad little fiefdoms of consumer hostility and incompetence, that it's a wonder it's not mandated by the state.

    That was sarcasm, by the way.

  13. ratfox
    Stop

    Consumers not realizing Netflix is blocked

    Surely, they would realize that; but what if it is occasionally throttled? Suppose AT&T throttled Netflix, five minutes at a time? How many customers would realize the glitches in their movie are the fault of AT&T, and not assume Netflix is to blame? Realistically, it would be difficult even for an expert to know what is going on.

    And really, even though I'm a Reg reader, sometimes I have no idea if the video is slow because of my WiFi network, my provider, or YouTube. If this only happened with YouTube videos, I might well blame YouTube... Though it might just be a clever strategy of my provider.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ISPs in America

    I believe American ISPs regard the notion of competition leading to a healthy marketplace as quaint and the era of Robber Baron-era monopoly profits as the time when all was right with the world.

    Rather than compete by not degrading OTT services, it seems more likely the major providers will compete by degrading different OTT services. If you want Netflix, you have a choice of a subset of providers, all of them suboptimal for your purposes. The same for Hulu, with a different set of providers. Want both? Apologies, but no.

    Typically the providers extant in a given area, outside the concentrated population centers on the coasts, number less than five. The barrier to entry in the service provider market is high enough that the existing players regard their positions as quite safe, and rightly so.

  15. Eric Olson

    An important point...

    It was mentioned that Americans don't have much choice in the ISP department. In a very large metro area, I have two choices for broadband: Comcast and CenturyLink. I've had both, and don't much care for the prices or customer service of either. In the last five years, both have moved to 2 year contracts with large ETFs; even with the contracts, they have the ability to raise prices above and beyond the usual reset to the regular price after a 6 month promotional period ends. If one began degrading my access to their competitors (in Comcast's, damn near anyone not part of NBC), I have to pay a large ETF, move to CenturyLink, and hope they aren't retaliating against Comcast. And if both decide that Google or Netflix has gotten too cozy in the content provider realm, I'm SOL. So it's not, as seemingly asserted throughout the article, that Americans are to dumb to notice; we just don't have the ability to anything about it.

    And in case someone asks, the reason we have so few options is that a while back, Congress bought into idea that data delivery systems are expensive and require guarantees of usage to make it worth a service provider's money to build out. So every local city was able (required, really) to promise single-service provider access to their residents. These "franchise agreements" were fine when there were as many cable TV providers as metro areas. But consolidation in the late 80s and 90s meant that are are only a couple of national players; the handful of local or regional providers that remain are in the rural areas, as the Comcasts of the world deem those places too expensive to bother with. So we are left with wonderful results like a carriage-fee dispute for ABC or NBC (national networks with many cable-type channels) can leave whole regions (like the small area of NY, Boston, and DC) without one of the networks that make up 25% of the TV watched.

    1. Bob Camp

      Re: An important point...

      Your post is 100% correct.

      Also, I have Verizon FIOS and it is easily the best ISP out there. No data caps, fast speeds, low ping times, and very consistent performance.

      1. Eric Olson

        Re: An important point...

        And, as is the wont of living in America, that is a product that isn't available in my Top-15 metro area. Go figure.

      2. Swarthy Silver badge

        Re: An important point...@ Bob Camp

        I also have Verizon FIOS, and am ~90% happy with them, but I have noticed that I cannot (reliably) run Netflix in HD, even on a 50Mb service. I frequently find myself setting it to non-HD to mitigate over-frequent buffering and lapses in play. I have also noticed when watching You-Tube videos on my cell phone that the 4G is faster than my WiFi. 4G should not be able to beat 50Mb.

        File downloads and webpages are usually quite brisk, and I have no other complaints; but yeah, they throttle the Hell out of streaming video.

    2. Eric Olson

      Re: An important point...

      I would also like to add that while I use the phrase cable TV, it's broadband. And to be clear, this is last mile stuff. The truth is that cable TV franchise agreements were how the copper, then fiber, networks were built out that allowed cable TV providers to get into the broadband business. DSL, because of common carrier and the use of those telephony assets, did provide competition to cable and multiple providers in the same region. But I believe there were some rulings in the late 90s or early 00s that allowed the owner of those phone lines to charge whatever they wanted to those DSL ISPs for maintenance and build-out, and the telephone companies certainly did that. So consolidation happened there as well. Hence the two options: Comcast (cable) and CenturyLink (DSL).

  16. R 11

    Maybe it's the author, not the Americans

    "not being fully responsive" to such actions is a reflection of the lack of choice, not the 'stupidity' of Americans. of course, name calling is more fun but the author had already identified the issue earlier in the article.

    If, say, an ISP blocked netflix, you would expect most netflix customers to switch ISP. That would be fully responsive. Where you have no choice of ISP, you cannot switch and so the customer base would not, as the court put it, 'be fully responsive'.

    That's not a reflection on how lazy or stupid they are, it's a damning indictment of the monopoly/duopoly in internet provision that most U.S. residents face.

  17. AnonFairBinary

    the people will not notice thing...

    I think you are assuming the ISPs will just block it. What the ISP would actually do is apply some sort of packet preferencing. So the rest of the internet will work fine, but Netflix will have poor quality, drop outs, pauses. The consumer will see the internet works but netflix doesn't and contacts netflix. Netflix sees impact to their brand, and higher support costs, and it is not clear that the consumer will actually blame the ISP.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: the people will not notice thing...

      @Eric

      "The consumer will see the internet works but netflix doesn't and contacts netflix. Netflix sees impact to their brand, and higher support costs, and it is not clear that the consumer will actually blame the ISP."

      What you're describing is information asymmetry and it won a Nobel Prize for Stiglitz and Akerlof in 2000.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_asymmetry

      One of the wonders made possible by the internet is that the several million [Insert Evil Telco] subscribers who had their Netflix blocked or degraded find out pretty quickly that *only* [Insert Evil Telco] is doing it. Especially with Neutrality activists on the alert. So it's every implausible that [Insert Evil Telco] could get away with it. Word gets around.

      The rest of your post describes very accurately how the access market was permitted to consolidate, because there was too much lobbying influence upstream - and agree with it 100pc.

      1. John Sanders
        Holmes

        Re: the people will not notice thing...

        """One of the wonders made possible by the internet is that the several million [Insert Evil Telco] subscribers who had their Netflix blocked or degraded find out pretty quickly that *only* [Insert Evil Telco] is doing it. Especially with Neutrality activists on the alert. So it's every implausible that [Insert Evil Telco] could get away with it. Word gets around."""

        And one of the wonders of companies operating on the same sector to have under the table agreements.

        They do it all the time, on every industry.

        Remember certain 'recent' financial scandal about the banks fixing rate prices?

        There is nothing that would prevent two ISPs in a given zone from having an agreement to screw a third party.

        Hey it is not personal, it is just business.

        1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: the people will not notice thing...

          "There is nothing that would prevent two ISPs in a given zone from having an agreement to screw a third party."

          That's why you have Federal and state laws prohibiting that. And the DoJ the FTC and state attorneys able to prosecute such practices. Need I remind you, that's not an argument for top-down traffic regulation or Class II reclassification.

      2. P. Lee

        Re: the people will not notice thing...

        It wouldn't be anything so crass as blocked or degraded service.

        What we'd have is "priority services" being offered for a fee. So Netflix jumps on board and grabs the top slice of priority. They have a subscription service and can easily afford to pay for it. They get 2:1 in the queuing system. Then the ISP decides to launch its own local news & video service at the same priority. To maintain service, we now have a 4:1 ratio of priority services to non-priority services. Document HTTP probably won't notice too much. Ironically, bit-torrent probably won't care too much either since it isn't time dependent. And so it goes on.

        As the system expands, it becomes harder and harder for the smaller and newer players to compete. It becomes an effective barrier to entry which the larger players want to maintain. They don't mind shelling out to the ISPs because it prevents further competition and is a lot easier than innovation or providing better service. It's the broadband consumers who lose out, because they provide less and less of the ISP's income. They pay, but they don't pay enough to influence things.

        Then the content provider's turn on the ISP's: unless you give is X:1 priority, you can't have our content at all. The ISP's have to comply because when new customers see the advertising checkboxes are empty, they won't even bother to call.

        Net Neutrality is just a means to an end. It keeps the ISP's answerable to the broadband customer and prevents behind the scenes corruption. Companies do not seek competition, they seek to avoid it. They seek to take other companies customers and then prevent them from leaving. That's why we have contracts rather than allowing people to change providers on a day by day basis.

        1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: the people will not notice thing...

          "What we'd have is "priority services" being offered for a fee. So Netflix jumps on board and grabs the top slice of priority. They have a subscription service and can easily afford to pay for it. They get 2:1 in the queuing system. Then the ISP decides to launch its own local news & video service at the same priority. To maintain service, we now have a 4:1 ratio of priority services to non-priority services. Document HTTP probably won't notice too much. Ironically, bit-torrent probably won't care too much either since it isn't time dependent. And so it goes on."

          I'm not sure what you think you're regulating, exactly.

          YouTube has enormous market share. It doesn't touch the public internet. Netflix uses AWS. It doesn't touch the public internet.

          They've already paid (directly or indirectly) to use private networks to get their video to you faster. Their edge servers are at the ISP. You are right that YouTube has a huge advantage but for the wrong reasons.

          So I am left wondering if you would outlaw QoS in private networks. *boggles*

          Also would you force the world's biggest private networks (eg Google's) to open up for common carriage?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: the people will not notice thing...

        "So it's every implausible that [Insert Evil Telco] could get away with it. Word gets around."

        Tosh, I suggest you go out and talk to some real people. All my neighbours whinge about their broadband for all manner of reason, however, they do have one thing in common with 87% of all other consumers, they use the top 4 providers. The result, they just churn though the same four at a rate that gets slower each times as contrcat lengths increase.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If the FCC wanted to make a point to say Verizon and such. For all that they fight against the FCC, maybe the FCC should hold a grudge. Oh, so you want to buy that 45% of Verizon Wireless that you don't own from Vodafone; DENIED. Oh, you want to partner with the cable companies and buy their spectrum; DENIED. The FCC has the power to deny, so they need to start to use it. It was their rubber stamping of approvals that allowed these companies to be back in a monopolistic way. Letting them get bigger and bigger is not good for the consumer.

  19. bigjokerfish

    Staring blankly at the screen.

    Should the Register be blocked, I doubt that every person in the known world with an internet connection would immediately twig that it had happened. The supposition that users would be unaware of services being removed quite rightly takes into account people who do not currently use their service.

    I think that this ruling suggests that not everyone is acutely aware of every service that is being throttled or to what extent given that the majority of people don't access the majority of the content available.

    If the iTunes store went offline tomorrow then I'd never know.

  20. robarm

    I think you answered your own question (at leats in part)

    I agree that the average American is unlike to sit staring at their blank Netflix screen. However, as you mentioned, most people (readers of El REg aside) don't realize the internet is a network of networks, which means that their understanding of how the content gets to their screens is hazy at best. When they go to watch something on Netflix (or Hulu or any other OTT provider) and the content is slow or non-existent, they will likely just chalk it up to "my crappy internet service" and move on to something else. Do that enough times and they'll just drop their subscription to the OTT company. If they are able to find the content on a site owned by the ISP, they won't consider the larger ramifications, they'll just sit back and enjoy their show, and again eventually drop the subscription to the OTT company.

    If we had real 'last mile' competition then things might be different - instead of just getting used to "crappy internet service' we might be incentivised to switch providers, but that just isn't an option at the moment and isn't likely to be for he foreseeable future.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: I think you answered your own question (at leats in part)

      Last mile competition is pretty vital, I agree.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I think you answered your own question (at leats in part)

        Competition is vital. This is why it is so stupid that Australia is building the biggest monopoly of them all. The NBN will create a single Internet access point which will implement all of the worst censorship schemes of them all. Yes, you can buy your service from any of several ISPs, but these are ISPs in name only. All they really do will be to resell the service provided by NBN Co.

        And since NBN Co is part owned by the govt, it will be an interfering do-gooder in charge. Not just speaking as an interfering regulator, but also part-owner. Think of the censorship regime you could put in place. And nobody would dare to expose you to the (compliant) press, either. Remember "Red underpants" Conroy? Well, somebody just as bad will be back soon.

  21. Don Jefe

    Telecom & ISP Networks

    I'm unsure why the article makes a special point out of 'over-the-top' services using the ISP and telecoms networks. The tone of the article seems to suggest those services are using 'too much' of the bandwidth without paying 'extra' for that use. That's a gross oversimplification of the situation and, strangely, skips right over the other side of the issue. Although I suppose I can see why the ISP's don't really devote a lot of space in their talking points to those issues.

    The telcos and ISP's would have you believe it is their investment that built the infrastructure the Internet in the US runs on, but that's patently incorrect. The rollout and ongoing expansion of those networks was funded via direct investment, tax adjustments and subsidies funded by the US taxpayer. The service providers do provide maintenance to those networks, primarily out of their own pocket, but not even all of that.

    There are numerous pieces of legislation dealing with those funds and the telcos lobbied hard for their passage. The legislation runs the through all sectors of US Government authority, from education and defense to commerce and entertainment and banking to international trade. All told there are over 100 pieces of legislation that send funds directly to telcos, provide tax credits and transfer real property from US to ISP ownership.

    The various subsidies are such big business that all the ISP's employ specialists and government liaisons to identify new ways to tap those government dollars and every single ISP has an internal legislative steering committee that has its own voice in company strategies.

    I am not saying telcos/ISP's do nothing or add no value. They certainly do and not just in building networks. An enormous portion of today's 'hot' technologies and current computer science fundamentals are offshoots of telco developments. Google, Facebook, Twitter, the entire concept of MMORPG's, all the switch manufacturers, exist in their present forms because of work done inside the telco industry for use in the telco industry.

    But it is foolish and detrimental to consumers for them to be led to believe that their streaming porn and latest Pixar movies are being brought to them as a function of the market opportunities identified and capatilized on by the telcos/ISP's. Sure, the telcos like that perception, but it isn't reality.

    If you rewind to the early/mid-1990's you can really see the policies and legislation that would pave the way for how the Internet in the US looks today. One of the recurring, and most often cited reasons for scaling the networks up and out was that it would enable entirely new companies, products and services to develop that could benefit everyone: Yay! Trouble was, nobody was interested in building out the network at open market valuations.

    Much horse trading later, legislation, modeled on the subsidies given to the energy sector, was developed. So you end up with the US Department of Agriculture buying property for transmission easements and transferring the land to the telcos (to the detriment of the original owner), a military that funds expansion of fiber as a national security measure, a Department of Education that funds high speed network infrastructure to basically every town or village that has a public school, a Department of Health that funds infrastructure to basically any town or village that has a hospital or a clinic. The list goes on and on and on.

    The telcos were extremely happy about these developments. They were (and still are) being paid billions in tax payer funds to build and maintain networks they get to charge the end user for. That was all fine and dandy, but now that money has been built into their books for years and no longer represents huge room for growth. They want increased revenue, not maintained revenue. So they hit the ground running, lobbying for changes in regulation but they never like to talk about the fact that 3/4 or more of their networks were built with taxpayer funds on promises to deliver network access throughout the country so other business could develop.

    There's plenty of information on the subject and I believe it is vitally important that anyone moaning about US network regulation do some serious research before buying into the telcos/ISP's highly edited version of how networks are funded. They certainly aren't funded by competing in open markets. They are custodians of publicly funded utility infrastructure.

  22. Uffish

    I am amazed...

    ... that ISPs could imagine that censorship (and self-interested censorship at that) was a viable option. How did the case get this far?

    1. Bob Camp

      Re: I am amazed...

      It's only censorship when the government does it. When a private company blocks speech it's generally allowed unless there is a specific law that prevents them from doing it. Such laws are few and far between.

      It's your First Amendment right to call your boss a coward, his wife ugly, and his kids a bunch of monsters. And you can say it to his face, or post it on Facebook, or e-mail your coworkers. You won't go to prison for it, but don't expect a job when you go back to work the next day.

      1. Uffish

        Re: I am amazed...

        I can only assume that Verizon would prefer to deal with the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission rather than the FCC because that is what this case has determined. I wonder how much lobbying Verizon is doing at the moment.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You have no idea what you're takling about

    So-called over-the-top websites like Hulu and Netflix, which piggyback on ISPs' networks, do compete directly with the telcos' vertically integrated video services. In a competitive market it's hard to imagine how an ISP that blocked Netflix or Google would have any customers. They either wouldn't sign up – or if Netflix was blocked, they'd switch to a competitor. But the court doesn't it see it that way: "We see no basis for questioning the Commission’s conclusion that end users are unlikely to react in this fashion."

    You clearly haven't done even a bit of research as to the broadband market in the US. Where I live there is exactly *1* choice of wireline ISP, frontier DSL. The options fore wireless are limited to Verizon Home Fusion which charges such ridiculous fees for bandwidth that I don't have to worry about Netflix, Youtube, or Hulu, I'd be over the cap and $1200 in debt after 2 hours of watching anything streaming.

    So no, the court doesn't think US residents are idiots, they just have a clue as to the complete lack of competition throughout large swaths of our slowly failing country.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: You have no idea what you're takling about

      As someone stuck with Comcast, I know your pain. We know that the choice of ISP in the US is shocking :( You appear to be in a particularly tight spot.

      C.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: You have no idea what you're takling about

        But that's exceedingly rare - almost everyone has at least two choices, and two is all you need if consumers are willing to switch.

        The two choices may be sub-utopian, and it may well be (thanks to the FCC, which destroyed local competition) a choice between two generally shitty corporations. But no company wishes to lose a customer, less lots of customers in a short space of time.

        So as long as people have the information they need, are willing to switch and carry through on their threat, then you have something resembling a competitive market. It doesn't really matter that the choice is between two or five (as in the UK) or three (as in the most of Europe).

        But the idea a punter will sit through endless disruptions and degradations and *not* switch is implausible. Unless you think a degraded internet is what people accept and/or deserve. Here, be careful what you wish for AC.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: You have no idea what you're takling about

          > But that's exceedingly rare - almost everyone has at least two choices, and two is all you need if consumers are willing to switch.

          Two competitors in reality is rarely better.

          Here in BC, Canada we have Telus and Shaw for cable. Their prices are the same and their services are identical. They just have different marketing gimmicks. People regularly switch from one to the other to take advantage of their introductory 6 month offers, but nobody here is under any illusion that there is any actual competition.

        2. Gene Cash Silver badge

          Re: You have no idea what you're takling about

          No, that's not "exceedingly rare" - I'm in Orlando, FL, and I have Brighthouse Networks (part of Time Warner) for broadband. That's it.

          A friend of mine is in Chandler, AZ, near Phoenix. He can get Comcast. That's his only choice.

          I had a problem with Brighthouse resolving everything to ad pages. It broke a SAMBA setup where it would switch to WINS to get to the SAMBA server if DNS didn't find it. Since DNS "found" everything, it didn't work.

          I talked to Brighthouse tech support. Nope. I got either "what are you talking about?" or "can't turn it off, sorry"

          So I filed an FCC complaint. That got a call from a rather snarky "senior technical engineer" who told me "Everyone, all of the ISPs do it, and we do it too. We're not going to stop."

          So I investigated my choices, and believe me, I was seriously motivated. AT&T DSL. Not available in my area. Dish. Not available in my area. Comcast. Not available in my area. There were about 6 services that advertised as being available, but when I actually went to sign up, they couldn't do it. I'm not in the boonies here... I'm only a few miles from UCF, which is the second largest university in the nation.

          I've got no choice but to suck it.

        3. Don Jefe

          Re: You have no idea what you're takling about

          I'm not sure that the single ISP situation is rare, exceedingly or otherwise. If you're using the numbers supplied via the DOJ competitive marketplace maps (that's also what the ISP's use to show service area) it looks like there is choice, but the facts on the ground are quite different. There's an analogue there with trying to determine quality of life using GDP. Where GDP says we're all doing OK, but the vagrant camp I can see from the 3rd floor East Wing of my house looks awfully cold.

          You'll find that a lot of the data out there is actually comparing apples to donuts, hoping you won't notice because both things are roundish in shape. All manner of nasty tricks are used to give the appearance of competition, where no competition exists.

          One of the most blatant shady practices used to show coverage (and competition) is to show entire quads of mapped areas as inside the service area. The reality is they wired up a single property in that quad, but they count all the properties in that quad at maximum occupancy as having service availability. So 250 homes and 1000-1200 people 'officially' have coverage but 249 of those homes are on the other side of the river and aren't actually getting service anytime soon (never).

          The local ISP's have my favorite tactic though. The 'Our broadband network is experiencing technical difficulties. Please use the dial-up service that comes free with your broadband service while we attempt to correct these issues'. That went on, nearly unabated, for over a year, and here in Northern Virginia isn't exactly in the backwoods. Myself and a few people from the neighborhood ambushed our Senator with the issue at the neighborhood Christmas party. You'd have thought he knew about the issue, since he has a house a few drives down...

          At any rate, I know that not everybody has a senator or some of the wealthiest people in the country as neighbors, how do they get their issues resolved? I'm not the kind of person who demands special treatment, I'll stay on hold as long as the next guy and go through your escalation protocols. I'm also not the kind of ass who blindsides my neighbor at a party to get him to throw his weight around, but that's what it took to even find out who to have extraordinarily rendered. I was bounced around through an endless maze of companies and eventually state and federal regulators and nobody could actually tell us who was responsible for the little exchange that was supposed to service our area.

          The actual land the exchange is on is owned by one company, the building by another, the equipment inside by several companies, the line coming in is owned by someone different than the lines going out and every single utility easement through the area is owned by even more companies. Our 'ISP' was, in fact, just the billing agent for another ISP that had leased the lines from still another ISP.

          My point in all this, is that everything to do with telcos/ISP's here in the US is shrouded in mystery and obfuscated by bureaucracy. There is no straight line back to a responsible (or responsive) party. In city centers you'll often find some variety of choice, but the chances of even two providers in the same area drop drastically in direct proportion to the amount of cityscape you can see from where you're currently standing.

          As per my original statement, don't take the numbers at face value. Nobody is 'lying' but they're certainly doing a whole lot of cherry picking when they're working out how to calculate their figures.

      2. L05ER

        Re: You have no idea what you're takling about

        particularly tight, yes. unique? not by a long shot.

        same situation here, 1 provider. Randolph Telephone.

        $70 for 5Mb Internet (frequently laggrific)

        $15 for phone (not optional)

        $10 various taxes, etc...

        just shy of $100/mo for service that would never survive with competition from cable.

        i had to pay a $10 member fee, $100 DSL installation fee, $65 location visit fee... on top of the $100 security deposit.

        my bill is 8 pages long...

        my only other option for broadband is wireless from Verizon, which as stated is prohibitively expensive.

        called the cable company... no exchanges within 3 miles of me. talked to a contractor... cost would be somewhere around $80k, and they want 30 customers per mile to build out.

        Randolph Telephone is building out their fiber network, with somewhat more reasonable prices ($100/month for 20Mb) but you still aren't allowed to unbundle the phone...

        http://rtmc.net/myhome-internet-DSL.php

  24. PhoenixRevealed

    FUD?

    This article make a couple of disingenuous claims, so much so that if I didn't know better I'd think it was FUD from a big US Internet carrier. At the very least it demonstrates a lack of familiarity with the North American market.

    The problem is not "blocking" big players like NetFlix or Hulu by ISPs. Of course, doing so would be counterproductive for any ISP since they are such visible targets and a large part of why customers sign up for Internet access in the first place. Also, those services are already large enough to do an end-run around such impediments. NetFlix, for instance, started a program with ISPs where the highest quality streaming (Super HD) is only available to the ISP's customers if certain technical specifications are followed by the ISP. This had the effect of motivating ISP customers to get noisy about the quality of NetFlix streaming provided by the ISP. Heavyweights like NetFlix can do this... smaller and new players cannot.

    The author erects a giant straw man by repeatedly stating that ISPs would be foolish to block content that customers want, when in fact the issue is not outright blocking but degradation of competing services. Lower resolution video streaming and stuttery VOIP may not be an explicit block, but can subtly push customers in the direction of the ISP's own "uncompromised" offering, especially since viewers are unlikely to realize the shortcoming is not the fault of the service they are trying to use. The author scoffs at the judge's suggestion that customers would not know their services were being blocked, but if NetFlix works but constantly rebuffers just as the killer is revealed, how many would realize the cause is their packets being "shaped" rather than a flaw with NetFlix itself? The corollary can also occur, the carriers can build networking infrastucture that is only used to improve the performance of their own services. This would seem to be less problematic, but in fact the duopolistic nature of the North American ISP landscape makes it impossible for anyone but the largest concerns to do the same. Most areas have at most two choices for an ISP in North America, cable or DSL, with both vendors being equally protective of their own services. The cable providers don't want to cut into their own cable TV bundles, and DSL operators frown on VOIP competitors to their own long-distance voice services. Huge players like NetFlix may have the financial resources to build up some of their own infrastructure, but again, emerging services are at the mercy of the entrenched carriers and are easily smothered at birth.

    It it not just the ISPs that are a threat to smaller or niche players either. Long-haul carriers, the "backbone" of the Internet that connect one ISP to another also do their own "traffic shaping", often to the detriment of specific services. Here in Canada there are only two backbone carriers, Bell and Rogers. No matter who your ISP is, your packets are transferred by one of these two companies. Bell in particular started throttling BitTorrent packets a couple of years ago, and Rogers does something similar. What this means is that the consumer has only an illusion of choice since the services available are actually determined by the backbone providers, not the ISPs. There is no ISP available to the Canadian consumer that does not throttle BitTorrent traffic, simply because the ISPs are all at the mercy of Bell or Rogers.

    The "Big Two" in Canada even tried recently to impose an end to flat-rate unlimited billing on the ISPs forced to resell their backbone bandwidth. Traditionally independent ISPs have purchased huge blocks of bandwidth from the backbone carriers, which they have then been allowed to sell to customers as they see fit. This allowed independents to offer true flat-rate unlimited packages that were offset by their other customers using relatively small amounts of bandwidth. This allows streaming video services to compete against cable TV bundles, since like bundles, customers can choose a bandwidth with a known monthly cost that will not balloon no matter how much video is viewed.

    This doesn't sit well with Bell and Rogers, the incumbent Satellite and Cable TV providers respectively. They argued in court that independent ISPs should no longer be able to bill their customers as they like, but would have to instead introduce "usage based billing", where rather than selling the independents a block of bandwidth they could resell as they wanted, they would be billed on individually metered packets and would have to bill their customers that way too. This caused a huge outcry in Canada, as cord-cutters and heavy NetFlix users rightfully anticipated huge monthly bills and uncertainty. Luckily the CRTC (Canada's FTC equivalent) saw the light and quashed the uncompetitive initiative.

    Packet "favouritism" by ISPs makes it harder for the "next big thing" to gain traction in the marketplace, and actually entrenches the big boys in a market the new guys can't penetrate. If you have a great idea for a new service, but it has the potential to cut into sales of the ISPs own offerings, the ISP has great incentive to make your service less attractive by throttling.

    The big incumbents in the NA market like to squawk that the independents are piggy-backing on the infrastructure investments made by the big boys, but they conveniently forget that they are the incumbents due to decades of government enforced monopolies, originally intended to encourage the build out of expensive infrastructure in under-served areas, but now having the exact opposite effect. Bell in particular benefited from nearly a century of being the only game in town due to government decree. Even though deregulation has made it theoretically possible for infrastructure competitors to arise, the mammoth cost of doing so gives the incumbents an almost insurmountable head start.

    This situation makes the Internet backbone similar in practice to the public airwaves. There are many laws in place to ensure that the finite bandwidth available for radio transmission is allocated for the public good. Although technological advancement occasionally increases the highest useful radio frequencies or increases the number of channels within a given frequency range, radio spectrum is basically limited, and so it must be carefully allocated to ensure maximum benefit to its true owners, the public.

    With so few immovably entrenched backbone incumbents in North America (even worse in Canada) backbone bandwidth has become a scarce resource like the airwaves. I don't know what it is like in the rest of the world, but I suspect most non-residents of NA don't realize that several of the backbone providers here are also huge content providers, and so are inherently in competition with the independents that have no choice but to buy their bandwidth from them.

    Contrary to the author's argument, there is a REASON so many voices are raised in alarm at this recent court decision. Those affected by it, the residents of USA, and indirectly, Canada (since CDN carriers follow the US lead), know that giving de facto monopolies with a long history of price gouging control over which packets and services are favoured is bad for consumers and for innovation.

    In a world without the relatively neutral Internet of the past couple of decades, NetFlix wouldn't even exist.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: FUD?

      "This situation makes the Internet backbone similar in practice to the public airwaves. "

      The public airwaves in the USA are pretty shitty. Only lunatics live there.

      Is this really what you want from the Internet, too?

      Sorry to break the news to you but there is NO PUBLIC INTERNET left to regulate. It is all now private networks like Google and Verizon, who have bought "edge servers" at the access networks (Google) or vertically integrated access & content giants.

      Try being a video startup and you will soon discover your packets don't get through. There is no public internet left for the FCC to regulate.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: FUD?

      Spot on.

  25. Christian Berger

    Actually there is only one reason to have any kind of QoS...

    ...and that's if your pipes are to narrow to deal with your traffic.

    Surely there can be temporary bottlenecks in your infrastructure, things can go wrong and then you might be left with a fraction of your capacity. However this should never be the norm. There shouldn't be a daily bottleneck which occurs every day for several weeks.

    I am paying my ISP to route packets and to keep its network up to date. It is very hard for me to check on my ISP, and near impossible to do for the layperson. How do you know what throttles a download? How do you know if Youtube has a problem or your ISP thinks you should use its services instead?

    Since the consumer is absolutely helpless against the ISP, there is a need for a strong watchdog.

  26. bbulkow

    American consumers aren't dumb

    Your several arguments are quite weak, and the court's ruling does have some strong points. We can only hope that, by putting the regulatory body on firm ground, we can get regulations that everyone abides by.

    First, a duopoly isn't a wide open market, and the real feet-on-the-ground experience of American internet users is clear : there's rarely a reasonable choice. The court reasons - correctly - that the duopoly power we've created in internet service might be better than a pure monopoly, but it isn't a free market. Your statments that a customer "would just switch" are simply laughable to most of America.

    In my area, I can get service from Comcast/Xfinity, and from ATT/Uverse. Right now, Xfinity is providing much better quality of service - my Uverse friends say they have multiple outages per day, periods when ATT's core routers seem congested and broken, and switching to Xfinity cleared it up. In my area, Xfinity offers speeds to 150Mb/sec, Uverse offers 20Mb/sec. Wireless in my area is possible (10Mb/sec), but cells seems to get jammed up now and then, hard to keep a VPN connection live - and wireless data fees are high (roughly $10/GB).

    This is, at least, the duopoly at work. Many people I talk to are living with Uverse's poor service, but some are switching. Some stick because of the visceral loathing of Comcast, some can't be bothered.

    If we add another axis, where each provider blocks some set of websites, good luck to me for figuring out who I'm going to use as a provider. One partners with Amazon, one with Netflix. What, I'm supposed to get both turned on? The court argues this is ridiculous, that limited set of provicers is reasonable for physical infrastructure, and thus is rightfully regulated.

    Finally, we - internet users of america - aren't worried so much about blocking of a single media website like Netflix. Your straw man paints an unreasonable light. The real fear is google being held up to ensure quick response, and every other media company. The Reg certainly has a dog in this fight - they might be required to wrap their content in a larger company's livery (imagine: Yahoo), pay that company for the privilege, that company is paying off the ISPs for reasonable carriage, and The Reg has to squeeze all its contributors.

    A poor way to run a railroad.

    Leave the duopoly as it stands, but require "common carriage" style rules, allowing these companies to compete in a marketplace without a torture of 'if I want this movie series I have to choose that ISP'. That'll be fine.

  27. R Cox

    get your point

    I agree that both sides in this case are overreacting. I is common for SCOTUS ruling.

    However, as a US broadband user I often am left with sketchy access. I don't know if my home network is flaky, or if the ISP is having problems, or if there is an issue elsewhere. I intermittently get "website not available' when I go to HULU. Who is responsible for this issue? If the ISP say they know nothing of it, do I have a recourse? If nextflix runs slower than amazon, is it the provider, the network, or my home? Who knows?

  28. Paul J Turner

    Fantasy ah?

    " Many more fundamentally misunderstand the technical nature of the internet, rejecting the idea of a network as a congested shared resource, and prefer a fantasy in which all packets of flowing data were created equal."

    Any congestion is the result of an artificial scarcity of bandwidth set up to justify price gouging. It certainly isn't beyond the wit of man to increase the bandwidth available by lighting the dark fiber already laid, upgrading that fiber or end equipment for more bandwidth, or just plain adding more fiber/hardware. Given abundant bandwidth there is no reason not to carry all packets without discrimination and give a great quality of service, except the profit motive of course.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fantasy ah?

      "Any congestion is the result of an artificial scarcity of bandwidth set up to justify price gouging. It certainly isn't beyond the wit of man to increase the bandwidth available by lighting the dark fiber already laid, upgrading that fiber or end equipment for more bandwidth, or just plain adding more fiber/hardware. Given abundant bandwidth there is no reason not to carry all packets without discrimination and give a great quality of service, except the profit motive of course."

      It all sounds so easy. Who pays? Suppose 100x1Gbps uncontended subscribers. A 100Gbps interface is in the order of $35,000 list (Cisco 100GBASE-LR4). You could maybe save some money using CFP-100G-SR10 for $11,000. One uses 4x25Gbps, the other 10x10Gbps wavelengths and are sensitive to polarisation. So existing fibre may not be suitable.

      But those are just the interface modules, so you need to add cards. A9K-2X100GE-SE costs around $250,000. Then you need the router and software licences. Then you need to connect that router to the rest of the 'net, so need lots of fibres and the modules above are only 10km parts. So you need longer range (more expensive) modules, or a DWDM mux to backhaul to your core or exchange point.

      How much would you pay for your 1Gbps uncontended service to watch 8K cats?

  29. Paul J Turner

    Fantasy?

    " Many more fundamentally misunderstand the technical nature of the internet, rejecting the idea of a network as a congested shared resource, and prefer a fantasy in which all packets of flowing data were created equal."

    Any congestion is the result of an artificial scarcity of bandwidth set up to justify price gouging. It certainly isn't beyond the wit of man to increase the bandwidth available by lighting the dark fiber already laid, upgrading that fiber or end equipment for more bandwidth, or just plain adding more fiber/hardware. Given abundant bandwidth there is no reason not to carry all packets without discrimination and give a great quality of service, except the profit motive of course.

  30. jerry 4

    ". Because consumers have inadequate information or market power, bad things will happen to them"

    "In 2001, the Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to George Akerlof, Michael Spence, and Joseph E. Stiglitz for their "analyses of markets with asymmetric"

    And if my current provider offered me fiber and their DVR and VOD service in lieu of no Netflix (which has been crippled by Hollywood, I just might take them up on it. Or if they offered a better search engine or less intrusive apps than google in exchange for using their systems at a lower cost, hell, that could be interesting too. So an ISP with no netflix is certainly foreseeable, arguably, so is one w/o google.

  31. banjomike
    WTF?

    ...BT spend a fortune on buying football rights and giving it away with broadband...

    Yes, giving it with their broadband but they have also put up the price of landlines, calls, and for the first time in years they have started to charge for Caller ID. I use BT for landline not for broadband or TV so the end result for me is higher prices but no advantages so I don't see that the market has been made healthier, just more expensive.

  32. John Savard Silver badge

    One Way

    At the moment, in most places in North America, the number of ISP choices is now quite limited. Back when people connected by dial-up, there were many, but now it's just the cable TV company or the phone company where I live. Well, cell phone companies do provide a specialized type of internet connection as well, but switching is awkward, and few have inexpensive unlimited data plans.

    Still, it would add to freedom, not reduce it, if consumers could choose, instead of a default readily-available Net-Neutral ISP, a non-neutral one that was offered at a discount because of that.

    The problem is that there are tempting profits to be had from abandoning net neutrality when one has an effective monopoly of broadband in a given location; tempting enough that duopolies probably will prefer to both take those profits rather than one provider offering itself as the neutral choice. Part of the intensity of the concern is because savvy Internet users feel they're in a minority, and non-technical users may not realize the importance of net neutrality until there are no choices.

    Of course, some deviations from net neutrality may be inevitable. Torrent type protocols might end up being blocked except for whitelisted sites associated with academic institutions and the like, because of their association with piracy.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: One Way

      "Of course, some deviations from net neutrality may be inevitable. Torrent type protocols might end up being blocked except for whitelisted sites associated with academic institutions and the like, because of their association with piracy."

      And what happens when mass-transfer traffic starts encrypting and obfuscating itself to hide itself from protocol sniffers?

  33. JeffyPoooh
    Pint

    How come...

    How come browsers don't load pages 2, 3, ... sequentially onto new tabs in the background? As an option. Coordinated and sequenced so as to not affect loading of previous pages. Maybe just a couple pages ahead, not unbounded. Probably requires an amended HTML standard.

    (Checks calendar. It's 2014.) (Concludes that humans are morons.)

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: How come...

      That's a rather good idea. Will ping this to our tech team, cheers.

      Various ideas are floating around Vulture Central at the moment to do with pagination - this sounds like an option we might take a look at.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: How come...

      While static links would indeed be loadable in advance, more and more of the web is dynamically generated, even to the point that the actual addresses may not be known until the actual click (consider the many links that refer to JavaScript). There's also the issue of websites getting more and more complicated, with more multimedia content in addition to just a hell of a lot of HTML and script code.

      Which leads me to suspect the main reason they don't do link caching these days boils down to two words: "It's complicated."

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Look..

    Having half-read the article over cornflakes this morning and speaking to the wife, all she wants to know is will the damned cat videos get through or not? That, apparently is the important issue.

  35. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One of the aspects of this ruling (I'm going to have to read it all to be sure) is the possibility to label external services as billable.

    ISPs could (and in some cases i think have tried) to label external service (A) as a billable service, or tiering the the service into a different billable range of "packets". Mind you as far as I'm aware, this horrific thought hasn't actually occurred in the US yet, I do know that a couple of "last mile" providers here in Canada attempted it -- admittedly small rural carriers, but it has been attempted.

    I agree that there's been an immediate panic about the outcome of this ruling -- what I'm more concerned about is the fact that the Canadian CRTC will misinterpret it as well and attempt to allow that misinterpretation to apply here. Something that they've done in the not too distant past, and been slapped silly for.

  37. earl grey
    Mushroom

    Nice Rant, but missed the point

    Most of us in the United Snakes simply don't have two choices. I have cable. period. No DSL. Satellite is not an option. Cellular is not an option (no reception here anyway). Simple solution is mentioned all the time on Ars; separate the carrier and the provider. TWC, Comcast, ATT, et.al..... You are either a carrier (provide the pipes); or you are a content provider (provide the web, tv, phone, etc).

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Nice Rant, but missed the point

      "Most of us in the United Snakes simply don't have two choices. "

      Another myth.

      89 per cent of US households have at least two choices of broadband.

      86.7 have at least four choices.

      http://broadbandmap.gov/

      Interesting suggestion about dismantling vertical integration, though. Would you apply the content/network separation to the internet's biggest video company? Would you confiscate their network? If so, would you do so with or without compensation?

      Shall I call Eric now?

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Nice Rant, but missed the point

      So Ars is saying to look at this as a matter of a trust via vertical integration, in which case precedent does exist for breaking up such: the historic US v. Paramount case of 1948 that broke up the studio-theater relationship, altering the Hollywood studio system as well. If things got nasty, perhaps one could take an integrated company like TWC or Comcast to court using the Paramount case as a basis. Just hypothesizing.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        @Charles9

        That would compel Google to either divest itself of YouTube, or dismantle its network (which is the world's largest private IP network). Google would also need to block its Google Fibre subscribers from using GMail or Google Maps - or give up on its Google Fibre initiative altogether.

        I can't really see that happening - can you?

  38. Fred Goldstein

    Andrew, your analysis is largely right, but what is less well known is that the Section 706 authority that the FCC claimed and that the majority (but not Silberman's dissent) upheld really is not there, and could be easily overturned on appeal. The FCC claimed, and the court accepted, legislative history -- a Senate Report -- that treated Section 706 as a sort of backstop. BUT that report was describing an earlier draft of the law, NOT the one that Congress passed after the conference committee was done with it! Apparently nobody pointed that out to the Court. The final law removed the authority to act that the Senate draft referred to. So the real Section 706 doesn't grant power to regulate much at all.

    What the FCC can (and should) do is reclassify the physical-layer access from the subscriber to the ISP as telecommunications common carriage, so that people can choose ISPs, while leaving the Internet itself unregulated. The Court opinion made it pretty clear that this option -- the Computer II rules in effect prior to 2005 -- was well within the law, and the FCC could go back there if they gave justification. Of course politically they're afraid; AT&T and VZ have too many friends in Congress. So nothing will happen.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      What the FCC can (and should) do is reclassify the physical-layer access from the subscriber to the ISP as telecommunications common carriage, so that people can choose ISPs, while leaving the Internet itself unregulated. The Court opinion made it pretty clear that this option -- the Computer II rules in effect prior to 2005 -- was well within the law, and the FCC could go back there if they gave justification. Of course politically they're afraid; AT&T and VZ have too many friends in Congress. So nothing will happen.

      IIRC, the real real problem is that, according to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the FCC lacks the authority to make that declaration. Common carrier designations were written directly into the Act with apparently no latitude for extension. Meaning the only authority able to make ISPs into common carriers is Congress, who would have to pass a new Telecommunications Act to redefine the term.

  39. Brent Beach

    Orlinksi's arguments completely misunderstand the nature of telephone companies. They are regulated monopolies. They maximize their profits within the regulations and lobby rule makes to change those regulations to ensure even greater regulated profits.

    They are not innovators. Even though they were at the centre of the internet development universe, they created few of the innovations which sparked the growth of the internet we know today. I am saying few even though I can think of none, on the off chance that there might be one contribution out there.

    However, as soon as the internet started to boom, they started trying to draw the intelligence from the leaves into the network. That would have put the internet into a black hole - the telecom black hole. Development would have ceased, costs would have skyrocketed. That is just how regulated monopolies work.

    If changes are needed to handle the vastly increased data flows, those changes should involve the telecom companies supplying the well networked dump pipes and nothing more. That they can do without screwing up. Everything else should come from outside the network providers.

    For me, network neutrality says to the telecom companies - your job is well networked dumb pipes.

    For me, that is the recipe for continued progress.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Europe

    In Europe any throttling or management must be explained in the Terms and conditions, giving rise to choice. I hear what you say about choice in the USA but this is a failure in respect of waving through the consolidation. US consumers are paying for the removal of choice financially and in terms of neutrality choice. The FCC should have been more circumspect in allowing the mega mergers. The solution is choice not absolute victory for either side.

    .

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Europe

      Ssh. Many Americans are afraid of that kind of talk. And the "S" word...

  41. Anne Nonymous
    Linux

    They're making a fuss because they see an opportunity to fool the public.

    The lobbying groups that are making the fuss, all of them paid by Google, are doing it because they see an opportunity to scare the public into pushing the FCC to regulate ISPs heavily, leaving them permanently shackled and permanently forced to give free bandwidth to Google. Google itself, of course, would not be regulated due to its influence on, and huge donations to, the Obama administration.

  42. ecoli

    Back in the days of Ma Bell as common carrier, it was perfectly possible for the phone company to charge more for a T1 line than for a residential voice line. Similarly, there's no reason the companies that provide the infrastructure for the Internet can't provide different levels of service at different prices, while still being subject to the constraint of net neutrality: namely, the price depends on the level of service, but not the identity of the purchaser. Imagine a world in which a railroad owned the only track to a power plant and was allowed to make it difficult or expensive to receive coal from any mine other than one owned by the railroad. That's why railroads are regulated as common carriers, required to haul anybody's coal at a price related to their underlying costs, and why Internet infrastructure companies ought to be regulated likewise.

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